As the UK retail betting scene contracts, Irish independent bookmaker Boylesports is fulfiling its long-term corporate ambition of entering the market with the acquisition of Midlands bookmaker Wilf Gilbert.
Ireland’s second largest betting firm has agreed to acquire UK independent bookmaker Wilf Gilbert’s thirteen retail betting properties, however the two firms are keeping mum on the money involved, only citing an ‘undisclosed sum’ .
For over a decade Boylesports has maintained its ambitions of establishing the bookmaker on UK high streets, at one point even proposing a franchise-style approach that is used in some European markets. Led by founder John Boyle, in 2016 Boylesports pursued a failed £100 million bid to secure 400 betting premises that the CMA forced Ladbrokes-Coral to offload ahead of their merger.
Under the stewardship of new Chief Executive Conor Gray, Boylesports aims to acquire 100 betting shops and ‘establish a Northern England profile in 2019’.
Gray explained: “With the purchase of the Wilf Gilbert group of shops we have realised our long-term goal to bring to the UK retail betting public the same quality of service and shops that BoyleSports’ Irish retail customers have enjoyed for years. Of course our ambition does not end with this group of shops. We are looking for other opportunities to grow our estate and hope to add more stores over the summer months and beyond.”
Boylesports will undertake its UK strategy with the market incumbents making ongoing adjustments as it looks to counter the enforced reduction of FOBT stakes to £2. However, Gray believes that his firm is nimble enough to adapt more quickly, given that the company has never had to rely on gaming machine income to prop up OTC revenues.
“The FOBT stake-reduction legislation will radically change the UK’s retail betting environment,” Gray explained. “As a company that has never operated FOBTs we hope to help drive that change by transforming each of the shops within this group into world-class betting lounges with a wide variety of betting available on state-of-the-art screens and interactive terminals. The shops will have comfortable furniture, free refreshments and access to free Wi-Fi, and will provide a safe, regulated and enjoyable experience for both existing and new UK betting customers.”
Graham Gilbert, the outgoing owner manager of Wilf Gilbert, said: “When it came to looking for a new owner who would take charge of a business which has been in our family for generations we looked for a company that would invest to secure the future of our staff and to ensure our loyal customers receive the best possible service. We are confident that we have found that company in BoyleSports. Knowing what BoyleSports has achieved in the very competitive Irish market I feel they have the potential to transform retail betting in the UK.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank our staff for their many years of loyal service and to assure our customers that they could not be in better hands.”
An acquisitive Gray and Boylesports have invited ‘other regional bookmakers interested in discussing a sale to get in touch’, adding: “As we enter into this new jurisdiction we would like to take this opportunity to put on record our sincere thanks to Graham Gilbert, his sons Graham and Tom and the staff at Wilf Gilbert. They have been great to work with and we look forward to carrying on the excellent work that Graham and his team have delivered over numerous decades.”